Went out to Rocky Neck last Wednesday with the expectation of lunch at Madfish Grille. It was closed, but a person doing paperwork at the bar recommended Franklin, Alchemy, and Passports in town. We got to Passports first. GREAT suggestion! Before we even had menus, we were served HUGE, delicious warm popovers, reason enough to go back. My grilled salmon with apricot salsa and pilaf were perfectly done. My lunch partner said the same of her grilled tuna. We had no dessert, but with better planning... I'd be willing to follow up on the others, too.
The following night we went to White Rainbow where we shared a simple, large, perfectly dressed salad and split an eggplant ravioli appetizer that was superb. We both had the "crispy" duck breast that wasn't crispy but very tasty, regardless. Desserts (I had a taste of good vanilla creme brulee) looked to be pretty routinely upscale. I had an espresso and was surprised to see no lemon rind served with it. Don't know if that was an oversight or not. Music from a combo in the bar was a nice addition. Overall, I think this place verges on considerable pretension ("tap water or sparkling?"); but details are obviously important to the chef and proprietor, and the food is good.
To the more mundane, I had dinner at the Portside Chowder House on Bearskin Neck. Yes, I should have known better. One cup of paste-thick chowder, a fish & chips basket, and a green salad (because there was no COLE SLAW) came to nearly $30 with tip. The fish was excellent but then it should have been.
By contrast, two trips to Essex Seafood confirm their high standing. It didn't even occur to me when I ordered a clam basket a second time that I could forego the onion rings or fries, neither of which I wanted, and get cole slaw instead. It was offered when I ordered. This place is among the best of its kind.
Also had lunch at Ellen's (?) on the wharf in Rockport. Had a decent enough crab roll but nothing memorable.